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Andrew Newberg, M.D. is an American neuroscientist who is the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College, an Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies and an Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
He has been a prominent researcher in the field of nuclear medical brain imaging. In particular, his research has focused on the development of neurotransmitter tracers for the evaluation of religiosity as well as neurological and psychiatric disorders including clinical depression, head injury, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Professional career[edit | edit source]
Newberg graduated from Haverford College in 1988 with a degree in chemistry and then received his medical degree in 1993 from the University of Pennsylvania. He then completed postgraduate training in Internal Medicine with a Residency at the Graduate Hospital from 1993 to 1996, and then did a Fellowship in Nuclear Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Radiology from 1996 to 1998. He was certified in Internal Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1997 and certified in Nuclear Medicine by the American Board of Nuclear Medicine in 1998.
Because of his work in the intersection between religion and the brain, he has become an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2005 to 2010 he was also the Director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind.
Academic research[edit | edit source]
In the early 1990s, he began to research the intersection between the brain and religious and spiritual experiences. In this work, also sometimes referred to as “neurotheology”, Newberg described the possible neurophysiological mechanisms associated with religious and spiritual experiences. His initial research included the use of functional brain imaging to study Buddhist meditators and Franciscan nuns in prayer. This work was eventually published in three books, The Mystical Mind, Why God Won’t Go Away, and Why We Believe What We Believe.
Newberg's research has been featured in Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and the New Scientist. He has been a guest speaker at the Forum at Grace Cathedral and appeared in the films What the Bleep Do We Know!? and Religulous. He has continued to study religious and spiritual phenomena including topics related to forgiveness], meditation, prayer, spiritual development, morality, and belief. This work has been incorporated more recently into a new Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania.
Literary activities[edit | edit source]
Newberg is the author of four books, and numerous articles on neuroimaging in neuropsychiatric disorders and also on neuroscience and religion. His book, Why God Won’t Go Away, is a popularized account of this topic which describes some of the brain imaging studies and his theories regarding the nature of religious and spiritual experiences. A more recent book, Why We Believe What We Believe, describes the relationship between the brain and beliefs and also describes brain imaging studies of an atheist and individuals speaking in tongues (or glossolalia).
Criticism[edit | edit source]
Newberg’s research has been criticized from two main perspectives. From the religious perspective, concerns have been raised that the study of practices such as meditation does not necessarily extrapolate to the broader array of religious and spiritual phenomena. However, Newberg tends to agree with this concern and has argued that future studies are needed to elucidate the more complex elements of religious and spiritual phenomena. From the non-religious perspective, Newberg has been criticized for not ultimately reducing religion to brain function. Newberg has maintained that science and brain imaging studies are only tools to evaluate the brain during such experiences but do not necessarily negate such experiences. Newberg has argued that the integration of science and religion is critical for a better understanding of how human beings think and behave in a global context.
Works[edit | edit source]
- (August 1, 1999) The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience (paperback), Fortress Press.
- (March 1, 2002) Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief (paperback), Ballantine Books.
- (September 12, 2006) Why We Believe What We Believe: Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth (hardcover), Free Press.
- (March 24, 2009) How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist (hardcover), Ballantine Books.
References[edit | edit source]
- Begley, Sharon. "Religion And The Brain", Newsweek, 2001-05-07.
- Newberg AB, Alavi A, Baime M, Pourdehnad M, Santanna J, d'Aquili EG. The measurement of regional cerebral blood flow during the complex cognitive task of meditation: A preliminary SPECT study. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 106: 113-122, 2001.
- Newberg A, Pourdehnad M, Alavi A, d’Aquili E. Cerebral blood flow during meditative prayer: Preliminary findings and methodological issues. Perceptual and Motor Skills 97: 625-630, 2003.
- Guests: Andrew Newberg, University of Pennsylvania Health System researcher in neurophysiology, and Noreen Herzfeld, St. John's University professor of theology and computer science. God in Our Minds?. The Forum at Grace Cathedral. (Includes RealAudio links).
- “New Center for Spirituality and the Mind at Penn Unites Intellectual Resources” Newswise (April 25, 2006).
- “Tongues on the Mind”. Science (November 10, 2006).
- “Are Humans Hard-Wired for Faith” CNN Website. (April 5, 2007).
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